March 13, 2004
Long walk

On Thursday, I did as announced and took a long walk. I strode for 4 hours and took a 60 minute break for lunch. I ended up at Niiza, Saitama, 20.7 km from home.

My route was straight up national road 254. It’s called Kasuga Dori where I live, but past Ikebukuro it turns into Kawagoe Kaido. This route from Tokyo to Kawagoe has been travelled for hundreds of years. These days, it’s a four-lane highway all the way. Well designated, too. Even at the most complex intersections, I was never disoriented for more than the moment it took to find the right signpost.

I plodded through the familiar territory of my neighborhood, then into a section of the city I hadn’t seen before, though it was the same in tone and tenor as my neighborhood. After 45 minutes, I reached Ikebukuro, where I crossed over the Yamanote Line.

Outside the loop, the neighborhoods seemed more parochial than the skyscraping commercial zone I’d just left. Buildings were lower and businesses focussed on daily living. But soon enough the quaint shops in run down buildings gave way to suburban sprawl. Bicyclists outnumbered pedestrians. Ramen shops gave way to family restaurants. I watched bicycle shops turn into motorcycle shops and eventually car dealerships.


My goal was to reach Kawagoe, 34 km from home. But as I walked, my sense of time and distance got looser. By lunchtime, I’d reached Narimasu, 10 km from my starting point. I’d walked for about 2.5 hours according to my notes. I tried to do the math but it seemed wrong. After that much time, shouldn’t I be farther? I remeasured the map and came up with a different distance. I noted both then focussed my attention on eating.

Reaching the prefectural border just after lunch cheered me up. How many people in central Tokyo have walked to Saitama? Probably not too many. And there’s a reason for that. Over the border, Kawagoe Kaido turned industrial and extremely car-centric.


But this was intended as an endurance test, not a sightseeing trip. How far can I walk? What is the experience of going that far? I spent time thinking about how I should be thinking about the trip. I wondered back in time—50 years, 100 years, 400 years.

The reality was that four lanes of traffic accompanied me. A strong wind blew dust into my face. I walked for minutes with my head down and my eyes half shut. It was boring most of the time. There wasn’t much nature around. I stopped walking and came home because the blisters on my feet broke open. It hurt and I’m a wuss.

But I’m encouraged. I’ve made a target map of the places I can reach within a 10, 20 and 30 km radius of home. I’ll be going walking again as soon as my feet heal. I’ll buy a pedometer and maybe next time, I’ll try a more scenic route…

Posted by kuri at March 13, 2004 08:50 AM


What about a 37 kilometers circular walk?

Posted by: olivier on March 13, 2004 12:26 PM

Good for you. I enjoyed reading your words and seeing the pictures from your journey.

Such an excursion could make for an interesting video short.

Posted by: scott on March 13, 2004 12:58 PM

Your walk sounds very healing to me because it seems to be very realistic. Right now i am going through a phase where my life is beginning to read like a comic book. :-((
So if i may, can i join you next time?
I have never walked 20 kilometers before. The maximum i’ve walked is 15 kilometers but I would like to give your 20-30 kilometers a try. :-))
I am sorry to sign under anonymous, but like i said I am seem to be going through a down and down phase…
Eg: I just got diagnosed with LUNG cancer! And i dont even smoke. *sigh!* And many other tragedies to boot…

Posted by: Anon on March 13, 2004 01:57 PM

Dear Anonymous, you are welcome to join me. Walking is good therapy for bad times. Why don’t you sned me a mail privately and we can figure out a good day and route to walk?

Posted by: Kristen on March 13, 2004 02:06 PM

Hi Kristen,

I greatly enjoy your site, having just discovered it.

While I live in Detroit, Michigan, my wife is from Tokyo (Ikebukero!), and I’ve spent some time there. You’re pictures and thoughts jog my memory and pique my curiousity.


Posted by: tom on March 14, 2004 01:48 AM

Get yourself a pair of hiking socks. They’re snug slippery socks you wear inside of another pair so your socks absorb the friction instead of your feet. No Blisters!

Posted by: Laga on March 14, 2004 02:41 AM
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